It's tough for fathers these days, and some of us are scratching our heads wondering if we'll succeed as parents. We Dads sometimes forget that saying "I love you" isn't enough, especially when it comes to our daughters.
We don't see many stories involving a tragically nearsighted stripper, an inattentive and hyperactive petty thief, a jealous skid-row chef, a voodoo wielding faith healer, and a manipulative, potty mouthed unicorn. What in the world was I thinking when I wrote The Wrong Way to Feed a Unicorn?
Love. Specifically, a father's love for his daughter.
It's tough for fathers these days, and some of us are scratching our heads wondering if we'll succeed as parents. Who'd blame us? The difficult economy continues to slog along as the cost of gas stays stubbornly high. Wars abroad continue, so do the political battles in Washington. Social media and reality T.V. keep moving the goalposts on personal responsibility further away. And divorced families -- about half of us -- have their own special difficulties.
Amidst all the external noise, we Dads can forget that saying "I love you" isn't enough, especially when it comes to our daughters.
I'm not talking about buying stuff, I'm talking about doing stuff. We hear it said in so many different ways. Here are a few examples from different schools of thought:
- Children learn by what we do, not what we say (your psychologist)
- Actions speak louder than words (your neighbor)
- Show, don't tell (your high school English teacher)
- Just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (your priest or minister via St. James)
I tried to add to the mix with The Wrong Way to Feed a Unicorn. Charles, the hero, brings the unicorn home to fill a hole in his relationship with his daughter, Lexi. Instead of helping, the unicorn piles on. It takes an adventure that draws Charles way out of his comfort zone (thanks to the stripper and the other characters), to get him to understand that love is about giving of yourself, not suffering in silence.
So how can we put that into action if we don't have a unicorn, et cetera, lying around the house?
Listening helps a lot. Take your daughter out for a one-on-one and let her do the talking while you do the listening. I take my daughters to Starbucks for a hot chocolate once a month and start off with, "So what's going on?" We talk about music, school, books, social problems, T.V. shows, teachers, space -- you name it. Sometimes the conversation is easy, sometimes it's not, but it's always worth it.
I'm not suggesting Dads stop telling their daughters they love them. But the meaning takes on a lot more power when we back our words up with the unique talents that only fathers have.
I'll leave you with this: